Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Roman saints through eastern eyes


  • Please log in to reply
53 replies to this topic

#1 Evan Herberth

Evan Herberth

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 25 posts

Posted 04 July 2011 - 01:00 AM

Dear All,

When I was converting to Orthodoxy from a more Protestant/Agnostic background, I took the dive, not really knowing whether to choose between Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. A big issue for me personally was which Church I really believed had true Saints (naturally, because they're mutually exclusive to either Church after the schism).

Recently, that's been even more of a crisis for me, because, although I certainly believe Orthodoxy has "true Saints," I'm unconvinced that certain individuals in Roman Catholicism after the schism didn't possess a great deal of Grace.

I'm curious about the Orthodox position on given Roman Saints. Take a the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, for instance. He had a mystical experience that caused him to stop writing his magnum opus on theology, because it was straw to him compared to the experience. How are we to view the Roman Saints, especially in the light of their sanctity and miracles? Are we to believe that for all of them, the sanctity was a sham, and the miracles either were 1) fabricated or 2) demonic in origin?

I'm familiar with the comparison on www.orthodoxinfo.com of the spirituality of St. Seraphim of Sarov with the Western St. Francis of Assisi. For me, it is not really enough to answer this question, though, because it deals with only one post-schism Western Saint, not all of them in their entirety.

Thanks in advance!

Regards,
Evan

#2 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 July 2011 - 02:17 AM

Are Catholic saints "real"? God knows. It is God who makes saints, not us. Not all Orthodox Churches necessarily recognize all Orthodox saints, why should we be overly concerned about Catholic saints? The Church holds fast to what has been revealed and accepted and leaves the rest to God.

Why is there a crisis? St. Theophan the Recluse sums it up rather nicely as has been posted several times here and many other places: "You ask, will the heterodox be saved... Why do you worry about them? They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins... I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a different faith, you will lose your soul forever."

Herman the not recognized by all churches Pooh

#3 Fyodor Vaskovsky

Fyodor Vaskovsky

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 12 posts

Posted 04 July 2011 - 05:33 AM

Dear Evan,

This is what I think about your question:

What does being a saint mean? Basically, being a saint means being saved. The Church does not 'appoint' someone a saint, She does not 'award' sainthood to someone for his/her exceptional worth, as some critics imply. She just bears witness to the fact that this particular person is saved and is in Heaven. Apostle Paul writes his epistles to the 'saints who are in Rome, etc.' So your question may be boiled down to another question, which is no less simple: Can Catholics/Protestants be saved?

With regard to this latter question, we can only say that God knows His flock and we don't, so these Roman Catholic saints may be saved and thus may be real saints. However, we also know that the best and the least bumpy road to salvation is through the Orthodox Church, and if we weren't Orthodox, we would not be saved.

Love in Christ,
Fyodor

#4 Evan Herberth

Evan Herberth

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 25 posts

Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:16 PM

Dear Herman and Fyodor,

You both seem to be suggesting the same basic idea: saint means "saved," so were Romans ever "saved"? My problem is, I'm talking about capital 'S' Saints, and while I understand as you both said, they were saved, among other things, it's precisely the other things I'm concerned with. After all, how many individuals have been saved, but only through fire, and not with too great a surplus of crowns? Thank God that through his mercy I may become one of these saints. But the Saints are more than this, holy in this very life, showing their faith and sanctity through miracles flowing through them from the Holy Spirit. Once we get to the stage of miracles, we're on a different level, and these miracles are a huge part of the litmus test as to who is a Saint.

Given this, I really believe it's an honest attempt you've made, but an oversimplification. I'm not asking if they were saved, I'm asking if they were Saints, with valid miracles that have been attributed to them, putting them on the very same level as our own Orthodox Saints, which would suggest far more than merely being saved in spite of their non-Orthodoxy: but possessing a surplus of the Grace of God through their faith and true love. The implication would be clear: that even in Roman Catholicism, there is plenty of the Grace of God.

Also, please realize, I'm asking this as a soul in despair of which Church I should belong to, not as a cradle Orthodox who has "accepted the faith of my fathers" as the only true Faith. Roman Catholicism is the faith of my fathers, so if you have any wisdom to share on this, and not "that's dumb to worry about, you're in the best faith" you have my sincere appreciation.

Thanks,
Evan

#5 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 July 2011 - 04:43 PM

Again, not all Orthodox accept all Orthodox saints. I don't know too many Greeks devoted to the Russian Royal Martyrs, for example. There are likely hundreds, if not thousands Of saints not recognized but by God alone.

#6 Deacon John Martin

Deacon John Martin

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 122 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 July 2011 - 09:29 PM

My gut response is that miracles, although good at confirming our weak faith, is no foundation for it. What matters most is the dogmatic content, not the “signs and wonders” that our Lord rebuked his generation for seeking. Why do there seem to be miracles outside of the Orthodox Church? That’s a mystery of the next age. Perhaps God, who is all-good and makes it to rain upon the just and unjust, also bestows other gifts. I don’t know. I have a feeling, though, that Thomas Aquinas would ask himself, hearing tales of miracles outside of his communion, “But, is their doctrine true?”

#7 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,823 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 04 July 2011 - 10:58 PM

but possessing a surplus of the Grace of God through their faith and true love.


To my knowledge, this concept is not part of Orthodox teaching.

#8 Fyodor Vaskovsky

Fyodor Vaskovsky

    Junior Poster

  • Members
  • Pip
  • 12 posts

Posted 05 July 2011 - 12:32 AM

Dear Evan,

Once we get to the stage of miracles, we're on a different level, and these miracles are a huge part of the litmus test as to who is a Saint.

Given this, I really believe it's an honest attempt you've made, but an oversimplification. I'm not asking if they were saved, I'm asking if they were Saints, with valid miracles that have been attributed to them, putting them on the very same level as our own Orthodox Saints, which would suggest far more than merely being saved in spite of their non-Orthodoxy: but possessing a surplus of the Grace of God through their faith and true love. The implication would be clear: that even in Roman Catholicism, there is plenty of the Grace of God.

Also, please realize, I'm asking this as a soul in despair of which Church I should belong to, not as a cradle Orthodox who has "accepted the faith of my fathers" as the only true Faith. Roman Catholicism is the faith of my fathers, so if you have any wisdom to share on this, and not "that's dumb to worry about, you're in the best faith" you have my sincere appreciation.


It has been a Roman tradition since the aforementioned Thomas of Aquinas (or even earlier) to try to put all concepts of spiritual reality onto the places where they should belong using logical thinking, whereas Orthodoxy is a considerably different mindset. You see, this isn't a SuperMario game, where there are levels, lives, stars, etc. I don't see how miracles make one person different from the other; it is GOD who makes miracles, after all! The saints do not 'possess' grace, they humbly ask God for grace, and thanks to the purity of their hearts, God gives it to them, just like He would give it to us, if only we asked Him in earnest...

#9 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 05 July 2011 - 01:28 AM

Regardless of where others have or have not found grace, where do you find Christ? That is where you need to be.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 05 July 2011 - 02:05 PM.


#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 05 July 2011 - 11:19 AM

If I am understanding your question correctly Evan, then the answer should be that only within the Church can we find the fullness of sanctity (ie deification).

In other words always start with the Church as a living reality. And only from there once having begun to understand this reality, understand what She gives to those who truly live within Her.

We mustn't then begin from fruits before we understand what the Tree, ie the Church is. If we do this we might miss the boat entirely. After all good exists everywhere, and striving for it also. But this kind of good is not yet the Church although we would not want to deny it of its own worth.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#11 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 05 July 2011 - 11:46 PM

Evan,

As a follow up to what Father has said above, the Church is more then just the saints. It is the unity in Christ of doctrine, praxis, and the litrugical cycle of worship. The saints in Orthodoxy are saints, not so much because they do miracles but rather because they are living repositories of Tradition. We say that Tradition is the Holy Spirit at work in the Church, but He is not merely at work making people spiritual or doing miracles, but his ultimate work is to bring us into conformity with Christ, our mind, our heart, our experience, becoming His mind, His heart, His experience.

Also this Tradition belongs not only to the saints but is active in the people at large. This is why we don't have a Pope or a teaching magistarium to make decisions, rather we trust to the Spirit (sometimes directly, but mostly through Tradition guiding the people and the leadership at large) without any central authority.

Here is a concrete example. Catholic tradition has accepted Thomas Aquinas' theology as a standard against which others' theology is measured. But what happened after his mystical experience? We don't hear about him after that. And yet in Orthodoxy, we don't accept people's rational theology as the standard. Rather we see it simply as part of their striving toward real knowledge of God.

In Orthodoxy the saints like St Gregory Palamas, St Maximos the Confessor, St Simeon the Theologian, etc, etc. are writing their theology AFTER their mystical experience. In fact it is not true theology unless it grows out of this genuine experience of the living Christ. And the reason they can write from their mystical experience is because Christ has already laid the groundwork within Tradition for how this experience can be made visible in a way that is consistent with the Word made Flesh. In fact St Maximos the Confessor when talking of St Paul's theology uses the analogy that St Paul at times is leaving the mystical theology in a spiritual form for those who can partake of it this way, and at other times takes this word and makes it flesh for those who are still babes in Christ and mostly fleshly.

In this way, because in Tradition the Word has become flesh, even the faithful are able to recognize which spiritual people and teachings belong in the Church and which don't.

#12 Matthew Panchisin

Matthew Panchisin

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 589 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 July 2011 - 02:37 PM

This might be understood or mistaken, I was wondering if anyone knows why the Church fathers (when speaking of others) do not say Saint Paul's theology, Saint Gregory's theology, St Simeon's theology etc.? This seems like a very common trend recently, is this a question of individualized preferences?

Within in the liturgical deposit of the Orthodox Church I do not recall hearing or seeing such tones.

In Christ,

Matthew Panchisin

#13 Herman Blaydoe

Herman Blaydoe

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,157 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 07 July 2011 - 03:29 PM

Why would they? Right theology is true prayer, true prayer is right theology, regardless of who is praying. But for our sakes, it is the Church that helps us by pointing out true theology from mere theories and opinions.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain.

Herman the Pooh

#14 Sacha

Sacha

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 464 posts

Posted 08 July 2011 - 05:30 AM

Speaking of Saints, are Constantine the Great and Irene considered as such by the OC?

#15 Olga

Olga

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 2,823 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 July 2011 - 08:55 AM

Speaking of Saints, are Constantine the Great and Irene considered as such by the OC?


Indeed they are, Sacha. The feastday of Sts Constantine and his mother Helen (who found the cross on whom Christ was crucified) is on May 21, and St Irene the Empress is commemorated on August 13.

#16 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 08 July 2011 - 12:12 PM

It seems that a number of the Orthodox saints are recognized as saints, not so much for their personal sanctity, as for what they did in material terms for the Church - not so much because they are living repositories of the fullness of Tradition as an interior reality, but more because of how they advanced Tradition in material terms.

I have no problems venerating these saints as such for what they have done, their work in and for the Church. And I recognize that there is a legitimacy in recognizing them as saints, because the sanctity and reality of the Church, not anyone's personal sanctity, is always the grounding reality. This sanctity sanctifies everything within it. Nevertheless, I have problems asking for the intercession of these saints. For example I don't necessarily feel comfortable asking for St Constantine's intercession, as far as any recognition of him personally. Is this a problem?

I don't have problem with the hymnography,

"O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine, who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross,/ Accepted the call that came straight from Thee, as it happened to Paul, and not from any man./ He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care./ Preserve our country in everlasting peace, through the intercession of the Mother of God,/ for Thou art the Lover of mankind."

because this is done within the context of the Church as a whole and is always referred back to Christ and the Theotokos, and the Church in Her fullness.

#17 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 08 July 2011 - 01:42 PM

I have problems asking for the intercession of these saints. For example I don't necessarily feel comfortable asking for St Constantine's intercession, as far as any recognition of him personally. Is this a problem?

I don't have problem with the hymnography,

"O Lord, thy disciple Emperor Constantine, who saw in the sky the Sign of Thy Cross,/ Accepted the call that came straight from Thee, as it happened to Paul, and not from any man./ He built his capital and entrusted it to Thy care./ Preserve our country in everlasting peace, through the intercession of the Mother of God,/ for Thou art the Lover of mankind."


The hymnography is often a guide as to how we should pray for the help and guidance of each saint. Remember that each saint is a particular person and with their own gifts and manner then of intercession before God. That after all is why there is a long established tradition of praying to particular saints for particular needs.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#18 Sacha

Sacha

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 464 posts

Posted 08 July 2011 - 02:16 PM

Indeed they are, Sacha. The feastday of Sts Constantine and his mother Helen (who found the cross on whom Christ was crucified) is on May 21, and St Irene the Empress is commemorated on August 13.


Is this the same Helen/Irene who killed her son Constatine by plucking out his eyes?

#19 Sacha

Sacha

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 464 posts

Posted 08 July 2011 - 02:19 PM

It seems that a number of the Orthodox saints are recognized as saints, not so much for their personal sanctity, as for what they did in material terms for the Church - not so much because they are living repositories of the fullness of Tradition as an interior reality, but more because of how they advanced Tradition in material terms. ..
.


I find this dichotomy unnatural in the light of the teaching of Christ. In his parable of the great banquet as well as in His warnings in the book of Revelation, Jesus tells us that the man with no wedding garments on (not clothed in white, representing holiness) cannot enter the kingdom. And yet Saints as decreed by the OC, cannot be unsaved. We can't have it both ways I'm afraid and remain consistent.

#20 Christina M.

Christina M.

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 696 posts

Posted 08 July 2011 - 02:27 PM

Is this the same Helen/Irene who killed her son Constatine by plucking out his eyes?

Is Peter the same one who denied Christ 3 times?
And is Mary of Egypt the same one who was a prostitute?
And wasn't Moses the Ethiopian a robber and a murderer?

Personally, I have no problems praying for the intercessions of St. Constantine. I am particularly fond of his courage and bravery. We already know that he's in paradise, and I don't see why we shouldn't ask for the intercessions of anyone who's already saved, whether or not they have been canonized by the Church.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users